Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 30, 2012)
Reviewed by: Judith
Plot: It’s hard keeping secrets while growing up on a small island. But popular and charismatic Jake Hayes has a doozy: he’s been in love with his friend, Samantha Shay, for years. The night of Homecoming, he parties a little too hard and thanks to too much beer, decides to finally tell Sam how he feels. But disaster strikes and he winds up in the hospital after a horrific accident. Now Jake is mute thanks to a T-bar that embedded in his throat and he has to struggle to work his way back to some semblance of normal life. He’s juggling sign language classes, his family’s constant worry that something is wrong, an overzealous female classmate, and a growing relationship with Samantha. When the problems with her home life come to the surface, Jake realizes that his own problems aren’t the only ones out there and his relationship with her is tested to its limit. Will their relationship be able to handle his lack of voice and her tough home life? And more importantly, if their relationship does make it, will Sam ever get to hear Jake say how much he truly loves her?
Review: I’ve been having a slew of bad luck when it comes to books lately so was happy to pick this one up since it had a really pretty cover and the promise of some hard hitting material. High school drunken antics leading to life-long injury? Wow. Usually we don’t hear much about the repercussions of bad decisions unless it’s as a secondary observer. To be honest, it’s difficult stuff to read but extremely unique so I was on this book like…uh, you’re on a book you really want to read. Let me lay it out there. What I Didn’t Say isn’t going to wow you or make you question the way the world works. But it’s a solid read that will keep you entertained and will remind you of how care-free high school is/was and how easily that can be taken away.
The book is written from Jake’s POV and while his mind isn’t as trashy and gutter filled as I imagine a 17 year old’s really is, it honestly felt like it was written by a teenage boy which is an amazing feat. He’s a little sappy though in his love for Sam and there are times when he mopes and writes her love letters in a way I found rather annoying. There’s also not a whole lot of nuance to make you really feel for him after his accident. I mean, you will feel for him but it begins and ends with the book. It could have been flushed out so much better or more lushly written so as to resonate with me into the future, but it didn’t cause the writing wasn’t really up to that task. I didn’t think about Jake’s character or the repercussions of his drunken actions once the book was over and that’s ultimately its downfall. The writing is extremely straight forward with action happening without a lot of description and the pacing and writing style felt a bit juvenile. But again, this is a novel for teens warning against alcohol use so I let a lot of it slide.
Sam’s character was strangely enough
the one I felt the least amount of connection too. She’s supposed to be the most likable and relatable but she read like some role model for teens and I found that a bit boring oftentimes unbelievable. She had a huge of amount of bad in her life and yet she was able to overcome it and go on to be the best in the class? I just didn’t buy it. Maybe her character wasn’t fleshed out enough or her circumstances were too trite, whatever the reason, she was the weakest link and her sob story took away from Jake’s which I definitely wanted to hear more of.
In the end, this is a decent book that will keep you engaged from start to finish but it won’t do more than that. It’s pretty quick and includes gritty subject matter which is told straight forwardly and without a lot of pretense. If you’re in the mood of a decent read that you won’t have to invest too much in emotionally, this is it. BTW love the premise! It’s books that force us to look at real problems facing teens of today – alcoholism, abuse, death – which really need more attention. This is one of them and with a bit more polish and nuance it would be stellar.
In the end, I’m giving it 7/10.
Based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the heroine: 6. Sam’s character seemed way too down trodden for a small island. How can what happened to her have happened? How can she be so perfect even with it happening? She is too far-fetched to be real for me and as a result, I didn’t like her much. Plus she doesn’t believe in love. What teenaged girl doesn’t believe in love?!
How much did I like the hero: 8. Jake is a complex character – we feel for him and his lack of voice but at the same we want to wag our fingers since he brought it upon himself by driving drunk. Gah! Hate him or love him! He is very sweet and extremely likable with a good heart. Plus he really doesn’t let the whole lack of voice get him down as much as it would any other teen. He just plods along and tries to maintain the same relationships he had before. Very admirable.
How believable is the plot: 8. Kids do stupid stuff all the time and getting banged up and losing your vocal chords seems 100% plausible. It’s the whole friction with Sam that comes after that I found hard to believe.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 7. The writing was too juvenile for me after a hundred pages or so. There’s not enough description and the story is just laid out without enough oompf to get your emotions good and tangled up.
How much did I want to keep reading: 7. It was a good story and I wanted to know what happened to Sam and Jake but I guessed the end long before it happened so really in the end, I kept reading to see if I was right (I was).
Final Score: 7/10. Like I said earlier, this is a decent book that will keep you entertained. It’s light on emotional connection so you’ll enjoy it while it’s in front of you but afterward you might be a bit hardpressed to remember what happened. A solid read that doesn’t try to trick you or throw any punches, just presents the story honestly as the author sees fit.